I’m late to the party with 50 Shades of Grey. Unfashionably late. Back in May, when I wrote 50 Shades of Motherhood, I had yet to read the trilogy. I knew it only by reputation. I know it more intimately now. I read all three books from cover to cover in five days. No, the kids aren’t back in school. Admitted child neglect. But it rained a bit those days, so it’s not really child neglect.
After reading, I felt compelled to write a letter to Anastasia. You know, enlightening her about how her marriage will look a decade after the trilogy ends.
You and Christian have been the topic of discussion among housewives for the better part of a year. It’s true! Your story arouses interest. I’m writing to give some insight into a day in your life with Christian and your children in 10 years’ time. Take a peek into my crystal ball, Ana…
It’s 5:30AM and you awake with a start. Through a sleepy fog, you make out the sound of little feet running around in the bedroom next door. Little feet belonging to a boy who woke you three times last night because he couldn’t find the Lego he fell asleep with on his pillow pet. So you got out of bed to look for it. Every time. Dizzy from the light of that piece of crap Dream Lite the kids had to have, you found the Lego on the floor next to his bed. All three times. You were so fired up after returning to bed for the third time that it took you an hour to fall back to sleep. You sat up in bed and stared at
Edward Christian, willing him to wake up. Wake up, jackass. Next time you’re going in to find the Lego. When I asked you to kiss him goodnight, did I not tell you no toys in bed? Douche. You stared at him, radiating anger, for minutes. There’s no denying, he’s still uber hot. Super duper sexy hot. Except for the unfortunate ear hair. You read that right. Ear. Hair. It grows in tufts. Like a goddamn Chia Pet sprouting from his ears. It lowers his sexy factor considerably.
You got a cumulative 4 hours of sleep, and now the little one is prancing around in his room…the room he shares with his older brother. It’s only a matter of time before they’re both awake. Cranky. Demanding chocolate chip muffin tops before you’ve had a sip of coffee.
Christian. Maybe he’ll get up and tell the youngest one to go back to bed. You stretch, rub your eyes, turn your head to ask him to intervene…only to find his side of the bed empty. Son of a bitch and his stupid triathlon training. He’s in the pool. Or on the bike. Or out for a run. You hope he’s in the pool because that’s one less pair of sweaty socks you’ll have to extract from the laundry basket and turn right side in (cringe) before washing. Is it too much to ask that he take them off and turn them right side in himself?
You sigh and tiptoe out of bed. You turn the bedroom doorknob slowly, and open the door a fraction at a time, hoping to creep downstairs and have one glorious moment of solitude before the kids discover you’re in the kitchen. CREEEEAAAAKKKK. Mother humper. Sounds like Christian never oiled the squeaky bedroom door with the WD40 you left on the counter for him. Add it to the list of grievances, Ana.
The door to the bedroom next to yours flies open.
Last Born: “Mommy! You’re awake! Can I have muffin tops?”
His brother shoves him aside and places himself directly in front of you.
Second to Last Born: “I want muffin tops too! And I want them first!” turning to his brother, “You got them first yesterday, so I want them first today!’
Last Born: “I want them first! I asked first, so I get them first!”
Second to Last Born: Screaming, “I do!”
Last Born: Screaming, “I do!”
You’re missing Mrs. Jones more than ever, Ana. Where is she, you wonder? You had to let her go. Shhh. Shhh. There, there. You had to. And the security team. You had to let them go too. The helicopter? Gone. Property in Aspen? Gone. Sweet little Audi R8? You sold it on Craigslist, girlfriend. You had to. Christian took that can’t lose attitude of his to Vegas…and lost something fierce. He lost the mother lode. Piece by piece over the course of 4 years. He’s no longer a big business mogul. No longer CEO of Grey Enterprises. I shit you not. He’s the manager of the local Circuit City. He couldn’t even land the gig at Best Buy. He was too domineering in the interview. Heehee. Get it? Domineering? You still have the house overlooking the Sound. And it’s still beautiful. Can’t beat that view, right? But the A/C is on the fritz, and the water heater is on its last legs. You fantasize about using the money you get from your tax return to finish the basement, but you know that money is better spent paying down that nasty credit card balance. All those trips to Target add up, Ana. $237 spent on a cart full of paper towels, fruit snacks, and who the hell knows what else. I’ve been there, sister.
You kiss your copper haired little boys on the tops of their heads and ask them to lower their voices before they wake their 3 older siblings. That’s right, Ana. You and Christian have 5 kids. 5! Boy, girl, girl, boy, boy. You started early. You had so much money. You were so in love. So full of hope. You had 5 babies in 6 years. And it has taken its toll. Your stomach has so many creases it looks like the origami set you gave Theo for his last birthday. And those boobs that Christian couldn’t get enough of? Deflated water balloons. Filled with kitty litter. Breastfeeding 5 kids will do that to a girl. And there is no hope for a boob job and tummy tuck in the near future. Not with the kids needing braces. Another sad reality, Ana. Christian’s baby Daddy must have had an awful set of chiclets. It skipped a generation, so Christian’s dazzling smile was spared, but it attacked your kids with a vengeance.
You usher the younger ones into the kitchen with you. Turn on the coffee and whip up some scrambled eggs for the three of you. Ana, I’m so thrilled to report that you finally have a healthy relationship with food. No more…let’s just call it what it is…eating disorder! You are a female. By definition, a female doesn’t “just forget to eat”. Never. Never, ever, ever does a female “forget to eat”. You finally stopped that charade after the last baby and got yourself into therapy. Bravo, Ana. And, you look amazing! In clothes and with the right bra, that is. You know, because of the origami stomach and the boobs that resemble deflated water balloons. You can even pull off a bikini. But only if you’re standing up perfectly straight and taking shallow breaths. This never happens because you have 5 kids, a jealous husband, and no help. That jealous husband is prone to pouting, so you shoulder the weight of the kids most of the time. If for no other reason than to avoid Christian’s bullshit. And the good Dr. Flynn is WAY out of Mr. Circuit City’s price range, so now he grudgingly attends weekly anger management courses in the church basement.
Over the next hour, the older three kids traipse down the steps into the kitchen and greet you with half smiles, grunts, and nods. Just like every morning, you play the role of short order cook. Filling juice glasses, flipping pancakes, adding blueberries to some and chocolate chips to others. You’re just rinsing syrup off the last plate when Mr. Wonderful, home from his workout, bursts through the front door.
Christian, “There she is! My beautiful wife. Good morning, Mrs. Grey.”
Christian wraps his arms around you from behind. And, here it comes in 3, 2, 1….And gives you a boner to the back. Never fails.
He looks out the window through the glass wall while you endure his, ahem, muscle flexing.
Christian: “Remember the picnics we used to have in that meadow, baby? Remember what we used to do on that blanket?” He pushes harder against your back. For Pete’s sake, man, give it a rest!
Ana: Smiling sweetly, “Maybe you should mount that lawnmower of yours and cut the grass in that meadow.” And, while you’re at it, take a weed wacker to that ear hair.
Christian: Wounded, “That’s our meadow, baby. Yours and mine. I don’t want to change a thing about it.” His eyes grow dark.
Oopsy daisy. Tread lightly, Ana.
Ana: “Oh, Christian, I love our meadow just as much as you do. But the kids are covered in mosquito bites and poison ivy. It’s not fair to them.”
His smoldering eyes turn accusatory, “You always choose them over me. You love them more. I knew this would happen.”
Blah, blah, and blahbitty blah blah. You knew this would happen. He warned you himself. You spend the better part of the next hour convincing him that you still love him unconditionally (which is total bullshit, by the way…you didn’t know unconditional love until you had kids, Ana), and pleading with him to get to work on time so they don’t dock his hourly pay.
When he finally leaves for work, you walk into your closet. Gone are the garter belts and thigh highs. And thank God for that, Ana. A garter belt’s worst enemy is a woman with a muffin top…and Claude’s not around for private training sessions anymore, so your muffin top is substantial. Don’t worry, you hide it well in sports bras, yoga pants, and layered long sleeve t-shirts. You grab your favorite yoga pants, which are on the floor in a ball from yesterday’s wearing. You struggle to pull on a sports bra, layer a few t-shirts, brush your teeth, pull your hair back with a scrunchy, and you’re set.
You round up the kids and pile them into the minivan. Yes, minivan. You can try to look hot behind the wheel of that pig, and you do try, Ana, you do. But it’s no use. It’s the least sexy vehicle on the planet. But it’s the only thing big enough to transport all those babies you crazy kids had. And its safety ratings are higher than the SUVs. You know what a stickler Christian is for safety ratings.
In an effort to drown out the sound of the kids bickering with one another in the two rows of seats behind you, you turn up the volume on the newest Justin Bieber song. Yep, he’s still around. And your daughters have mad crushes on him. You sit at a red light, staring blankly ahead, when a flash of white catches your eye. A girl pulls up alongside you in an Audi R8. A white one, just like the one
Edward Christian bought for your 22nd birthday. She‘s beautiful. She has dark hair and appears not to be wearing yoga pants, a staple in your daily uniform. Sigh. She reminds me of me. You turn down the volume as you roll down your window.
Ana: Smiling, “Excuse me! I LOVE your car! I used to have the exact same one before I had kids!” More smiling.
Unimpressed, she rolls her eyes and goes straight for the jugular, “What are you, like…45?”
Why, you little…
Ana: Scowling, “Let me guess…Did your Daddy buy that car for you?”
Girl: “Whatever. Grandma.”
Just then, the light turns green. The spoiled brat in the white Audi peels out. I wish you wouldn’t, Ana, but you do it. You try to race her. Despite the fact that it takes you 3 solid minutes to get from 0 to 60 and you spend 2 of those minutes checking your rearview mirror for your transmission…still, you try to catch her. Oh, Ana, I do so admire your spunk. When you lose sight of her tail lights, you drive straight to the closest McDonald’s. You’re pissed. You’re frustrated. You hit that box of wine pretty hard last night, and you read on Pinterest that McDonald’s fries are the best cure for a hangover. And they are.
**Ana, my dear, this is a glimpse of what your morning looks like a decade from now. You’re probably more shocked by this snapshot of your future than you were upon first entry into Christian’s red room of pain. I know. You didn’t envision all of….this in your happily ever after. I’ll spare you the details of the rest of your day. Oh, except for one small nugget about dinner…
That macaroni and cheese that you made from scratch does not go over well with the kids. None of them appreciates the time you took to hand grate those four different cheeses. All five of them complain. One of them refuses to eat entirely. Two of them moan as they choke down a handful of bites. One gags. And one vomits. Right there at the dinner table. Not Phoebe. The younger daughter. She’s the middle child, but she is a drama queen, Ana. Dinnertime is a bitch. That’s just a daily fact of life with kids. You had visions of your kids praising that mac and cheese the way the Barefoot Contessa’s gay friends praise hers. Doesn’t happen, sweetheart. Valiant effort though, Ana! Keep fighting the good fight! They’ll be extra hungry for breakfast tomorrow, right? Oh, and one more teeny tiny detail…Christian is still sulking about the meadow conversation, so he purposely farts around at work. By the time he arrives home, the crunchy stuffing on top of his mac and cheese has gone stale. Ungrateful bastard.
Let’s fast forward through bedtime. Trust me, you’re not ready for a glimpse of that shit show.
It’s the end of the evening. The kids are in bed. Finally. Christian is still jealous. He’s still controlling. He’s insecure. He’s the neediest one in the house. He’s moody. The man needs a boatload of therapy, Ana. In spite of all that, you still love him. And you can’t stay mad at him for long. Even now, after so many years.
After putting your 16 hour day with the kids, you climb into bed next to him. In an effort to reconnect, and to assure him he’s loved, you initiate sex. You’re speaking his language so, naturally, he responds. Please can this be a quickie, please just a quickie, I think at least one of the kids is still awake, please a quickie.
He leans back, searching your face. The anger has left his eyes. Christian is back. You’re forgiven. He moves in to kiss you again.
Wait a minute, am I snack mom tomorrow? I swore it was next week, but it might be tomorrow! And I promised Theo I’d make homemade cookies. He told me 4 times that Jack’s Mom always sends in homemade cookies for snack. That overachieving bitch.
Christian: “Baby, I have a surprise for you…”
Oh, shit. No quickie. How the hell long will this take? I hope I don’t forget about the cookies.
Ana: “Oh, a surprise?”
Cookies, cookies, cookies, cookies…
Christian nods and pulls an array of sex toys out from under his pillow.
Son of a bitch, I hid that shit in trouser socks! Then I put the socks in the foot of my Christmas stocking. Then I put my Christmas stocking in a vacuum sealed plastic bin in the attic. Then I stacked 5 bins on top of that bin. Then I hid the key to the attic and threw out the spare key. Can I get nothing past this man?!
Christian: “Naughty girl hid the toys. She needs a spanking.”
Aw, fuck. Goodnight.
Yep, Christian is back. He’s still hot. Even with the ear hair. You love him. You always will. You love your family.
Embrace your minivan, Ana. Rock your yoga pants. Keep making those dinners from scratch. Continue your healthy relationship with food. Push Christian to cut that lawn in the meadow. Insist he give up that spanking bullshit. Maybe start a book club. Join Facebook. Get on Twitter. Drink margaritas with your girlfriends. Delight in the smell of your kids every night when you go into their rooms to kiss them goodnight. Don’t sweat the small stuff, Ana. This is real life. It’s hard. It’s often monotonous, occasionally punctuated by moments of pure magic. You’ve got a good thing. Hang onto it.
Oh, and first thing tomorrow morning, bury those toys in the garbage can. Under a week’s worth of coffee grinds.
This piece appeared in the Parents section of the Huffington Post on August 22, 2012.